DeKalb’s interim school superintendent reassigns two senior officials after investigation

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga — DeKalb County’s interim school superintendent has moved two senior administrators after they made critical decisions without notifying the previous superintendent, Cheryl Watson-Harris. However, the two have not been fired.

The findings about then-Chief of Staff Antwyn Brown and then-HR Director Dr. Michelle Jones are included in a confidential report of an investigation requested by the school board.

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The board hired a firm headed by a retired FBI agent whose specialty was organized crime and public corruption to investigate then-Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris. The board fired Watson-Harris before the investigation was completed, but the report -— issued after her firing — found no wrongdoing on her part.

That is not the case for two of her senior cabinet members who were caught making decisions behind her back yet still hold onto salaries of more than $200,000 each.

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The findings of the report documented that Watson-Harris was unaware of important decisions being made by people who reported directly to her.

Among the findings: Brown approved the promotion of the deputy chief financial officer without the superintendent’s approval and approved the new chief of accountability without Watson-Harris’s approval.

The report says Dr. Jones didn’t seek Watson-Harris’s approval for employee pay supplements of more than $5,000. The report says that Brown “should have notified the superintendent of potential red-flags regarding the payments” but did not.

Channel 2 has now learned that Brown and Jones have survived despite those findings of insubordination. Interim Superintendent Vasanne Tinsley moved them but did not fire them May 23, almost 4-weeks after she was named interim superintendent.

Emails obtained through the Georgia Open Records Act show the two were “reassigned as administrators on special assignment.” In an email today, the district says, “Mr. Brown has been temporarily assigned to the Division of Operations as an Administrator on Special Assignment and Dr. Jones has been temporarily assigned to the Division of Curriculum and Instruction as an Administrator on Special Assignment.”

The district told Channel 2 that Brown’s salary is $212,840 and Jones’s salary is $204,856. Those figures suggest that neither has had a salary reduction since the findings about them were released to the school board.

“When I read the report, it was somewhat disturbing because ... I read it with an eye of, ‘What’s in this that will benefit the children, the teachers and the staff?’ And the only folks that I saw were benefitting were highly paid executives,” DeKalb NAACP President Lance Hammonds told Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher. Hammonds doesn’t call for Brown and Jones to be fired but isn’t happy with the findings of the investigation.

“It was obvious that these people were not following board policy, and they should be called to task for not following that policy for the promotions and for the distributions of those bonuses,” Hammonds told us.

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